Greeks head to the ballot box in two days for a contest that may determine the fate of the world’s first democracy and the future of the newest reserve currency, while roiling markets from Wellington to Wall Street.
Almost 10 million Greeks will vote for the second time in six weeks after a May 6 ballot failed to yield a government. The constitution permits a third election too. The final polls, published on June 1, showed no party set to win a majority. Exit polls will be released when voting ends at 7 p.m. in Athens, with a first official result estimate due around 9:30 p.m.
The June 17 vote will turn on whether Greeks, in a fifth year of recession, accept open-ended austerity to stay in the euro or reject the conditions of a bailout and risk the turmoil of becoming the first to exit the 17-member currency. World leaders have said they’d prefer a pro-euro result, underscoring concern over global repercussions.
“I want Greece to remain in the euro zone, but Greeks must understand that this requires a relationship of trust,” French President Francois Hollande said June 13 in an interview with Athens-based Mega TV. “If the impression is given that the Greeks want to distance themselves from their agreed commitments and to abandon every prospect of recovery, there will be countries in the euro zone that will prefer to terminate Greece’s presence.”
Syriza, the party that promises to renege on Greece’s end of the bailout deal, and New Democracy, which backs the rescue, ran even in final opinion polls. The socialist Pasok party, which won the 2009 election and led the country into the bailout, was third at about 13 percent.
Now in its third year, the European debt crisis has rounded back to Greece, which sparked the turmoil in October 2009 when Pasok Prime Minister George Papandreou revealed a deficit four times more than European rules allowed. Greece has since gotten rescue packages totaling 240 billion euros ($302 billion). The ballot will be a first test for a 100 billion-euro firewall for Spain, which on June 9 became the fourth euro country to seek a rescue.